Take a Remarkable Journey in NSW… And Immerse in Surfing Culture Along a Thousand Kilometres of Coastline

One of NSW many Surf BeachesEach of the state’s main surf regions has its own distinct character, culture and natural surrounds.  There are destinations to aim for if you’re in search of a family-friendly surf experience, want to discover some ofthe state’s hidden gems, or just want to immerse yourself completely in Australia’s board-riding culture.

From the southern border to the banks of the Tweed River, the coastline of NSW absorbs Pacific swells and shapes them around headlands, along rocky points, across offshore reefs and over sand banks into more than 1,000kms of classic surf breaks.

Family-Friendly Surf Destinations

An hour from Sydney, the beach shacks, holiday homes and caravan parks of the Central Coast have long been aplayground for families escaping city life. The waves at Avoca, Terrigal and The Entrance are as good as anywhere in the state, and when former world surfing title runner-up Shane Powell (Avoca) and monster wave specialist Ross Clarke-Jones (Terrigal) shone the pro surfing spotlight here in the early 90’s, the Central Coast was transformed into a serious surfing location.

Avoca is the heartland of Central Coastsurfing, and it’s where Shane “Powelly” Powell can be found ripping it up in his well-earned retirement from the pro tour.  Avoca has a quaint village ambience and its historic cinemasets the scene of an old world seaside vacation town. Terrigal boasts a more cosmopolitan feel, with a greater variety of fashion and food and accommodation that includes four-star hotels and resorts; the right-hand point break at Terrigal Haven is the Central Coast’s postcard wave.

The long, wide-open swathe of sand to the north that marks “The Entrance” to Tuggerah Lake needs sandbanks to line upjust right for the waves to work, but if that happens and the swell hits, it can get world-class barrels; ANZAC Day 2009 saw some local hot-shots and a few lucky photographers tackling ten-foot crystal cylinders later declared to be the best they’d seen, anywhere.

The mid-north coast city of Coffs Harbour has several beaches offering sandy bottomed point-breaks and nice sandbank rollers to suit everyone from grommets to superstars. There are few better all-round water activity destinations than this – whether for sea-kayaking, paddling up the estuary into Bongil Bongil National Park or getting out to Solitary Islands Marine Park, which is one of the best offshore diving and snorkelling spots.

From Shell harbour down to Kiama and Gerringong,the family-friendly south coast surf beaches begin to reveal themselves as the cityscapes fade from view. Further down, there’s poetry in the names, and waves on the doorsteps, of coastal hamlets Bendalong, Manyana and Mollymook and some classic seafront caravan-camping venues beloved of beach-going families. Bendalong is also home to 1990 women’s world surfing champion Pam Burridge (and now surf school operator) and husband and board-shaper extraordinaire Mark Rabbidge – true south coast surfing royalty.

Hidden Gems

"Soul Surfers" make the most of secluded beachesSome of the state’s most pristine, sweetly-shapedand least crowded waves can be found along the mid-north coast from New castle to Forster. This is true “soul surfer” territory, where there’s nothing betweenyou, the ocean and great waves.

The beaches around Newcastle have sheltered spots for learners, fun corners protected from the summer sea breeze, and offshore reefs to tempt the best and bravest wave-riders.

Newcastle boy and four-time world surfing champion Mark Richards (“MR”) put this place onto the world surfing map, and in 2011 will again lend his name to Surfest, Australia’s biggest board-riding carnival.

Further north, the 43kms of coast between Seal Rocks and Forster encompasses some of the most beautiful yet unheralded surfing spots in NSW. Lighthouse Beach and Treachery Beach at Seal Rocks are known forgenerating epic waves when a south swell rolls in, and the campgrounds here are made for those on a surfing safari. Just 22km up the road at Pacific Palms, Boomerang Beach and Bluey’s Beach are blessed with magical waves and pods of dolphins that arrive daily to show the board-riders how surfing should really be done.

South of Sydney, Merimbula and Pambula beaches enjoy their own out-of-sight, out-of-mind surfer status, as well as the perfect topography for wind water-sports; every year the Merimbula Sailboard Club hosts the Mambo Merimbula Classic, which attracts the best windsurfers and kite-boarders from around the world.

Legendary Breaks

When the surfing counter-culture took holdin Australia in the late 1960s, the NSW north coast quickly became the ‘Promised Land’ for anyone with a board and a hankering to go commune with the waves. Four surf spots soon distinguished themselves as the best of the best and four decades on they still reign supreme

You have to leave the Pacific Highway just north of Port Macquarie to reach Crescent Head, accessed via Point Plomer Roadwhich ribbons the coast for 25kms. The point-break here is revered by long boarders, and some of the sport’s best have been filmed here cross-stepping the length of their 10-foot planks.

‘Discovered’ in the early 1970s by the hippie surfer crowd, the point break at Angourie remained largely unheralded for the next two decades. World famous nowadays as home break of Aussie legend (and 1966 world surfing champion) Nat Young, Angourie remains a pristine environment bordered by national park. Lennox Head is blessed with one of Australia’s most esteemed point-breakwaves.

Of course, no NSW surfing safari could bypass Byron Bay. Whether your preferred patch of sand is Tallow Beach, Wategos, MainBeach, Clarkes Beach, by the wreck at Belongil Beach, or round at Cosy Corner, a vestige of the 60s freedom counter-culture can still to be found, and perhaps it always will.

NSW’s National Surfing Reserves

Surfers making the most of NSW wavesIn recognition of the iconic status bestowed upon NSW’s surf beaches, many have been named as National Surfing Reserves. A surfing reserve is a dedicated area protected for use by the general public and surfing community and ensures these areas remain protected for generations to come. 

In New South Wales there are five long-standing and two recently named national surfing reserves:

Lennox: Located just north of Ballina onthe north coast, this surfing reserve includes the world-famous Lennox Point. The breaks at Lennox have been surfed by thousands of men, women and children since the late 1950s when surfing gained popularity throughout NSW.

Angourie: On the NSW north coast near Yamba, Angourie was the first legally protected National Surfing Reserve in NSW and is legendary amongst the surfing community for its breaks and natural beauty.

Crescent Head: Crescent Head National Surfing Reserve stretches along 3.5 km of spectacular coastline north of Port Macquarie. Crescent Head became a well worn trail for surfers following World War II and became widely recognised as a breeding ground for long board surfing in Australia.

Merewether Beaches: Declared a National surf reserve in March 2009, this is one of Newcastle's iconic surfing beaches.The reserve stretches from Dixon Park in the north to Burwood Beach in the south, some two kilometres of spectacular coastline.

Killalea: Killalea National Surfing Reserve was declared in June 2009 and covers "The Farm" and"Mystics" beaches within the Killalea State Park, near Shellharbouron the NSW south coast. The state park features 250 hectares of pristine coastal reserve with some of the best surfing beaches on the south coast.

The additional surfing reserves can befound in Sydney:

North Narrabeen: North Narrabeen NationalSurfing Reserve was declared in October 2009 and is a popular surfing beach onSydney's northern coastline. The reserve covers 50 hectares of land and wateralong one kilometre of coastline taking in part of Narrabeen Lagoon which playsa role in the natural processes that make the surf breaks of the beach so unique.

Cronulla Beaches: Cronulla Beaches National Surfing Reserve was declared in September 2008 and is one of southern Sydney’s premier surf spots. Cronulla is home to numerous former world champion surfers as well as other important figures in the development of Australian surfing.

NSW Surf Events

Get these dates in your diary to experience amazing surf events across regional NSW:

Billabong ASP World Junior Championships (January, North Narrabeen, Sydney); see the world’s best juniors on show. www.billabongpro.com/isa10

Surfest (March, Newcastle); Australia’s biggest surfing carnival, held over 12 days, celebrated its 25th anniversary in2010. www.surfest.com

Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic 2010 (April, Dee Why, Sydney); the richest event on the ASP Women’s World Tour, this world class surfing competition has seven-times ASP World Champion Layne Beachley as its Event Principal.   

Australian Surf Festival (August, PortMacquarie); combines the national short board and long board titles as well a sthe hugely popular Surf Masters event.                              www.surfingaustralia.com

Mambo Merimbula Classic (November,Merimbula); the biggest event on the wind-water sports calendar draws the top winds-surfers and kite-boarders from around Australia and overseas. 

For more information go to sydney.com